My mother and I went shopping today. As I’ve said before, she lives with me in part because she’s older and needs some help with day to day things. Nothing major (yet), but some basic things.
We went to a couple of dollar stores today. Yes, I shop at dollar stores. No, I’m not ashamed. We both enjoy those places, probably for the same reason: brand name things at bargain prices and fresh fruit and vegetables CHEAP. I don’t know what fresh grapes, berries, or asparagus costs where you live, but they’re not cheap out here. Except at the dollar store. $1/lb for fresh grapes, strawberries, and asparagus (and other items too) and $1 per dry pint for blueberries or blackberries? Sign. Me. Up.
While we were at the second of the stores and went to pay, something hit me. I’ve known for some time that her hearing is going (watching television becomes a neighborhood event) but today it was brought home to me in a very real way. She had 4 things, 2 of which were taxable, so the tab was $4.16. That’s what the checker told her. Because my mother gets irritated whenever I try to pay for anything when we’re together, I wandered away to put the handbasket back, leaving her to pay She did the old-lady thing, digging in her pocketbook for the exact change: “I think I have the change,” she said, as the checker waited patiently. My mother slowly pulled out 2 quarters and a dime and pushed the three coins and a five dollar bill towards the checker.
By this time I was back. “No, ma’am it’s SIXTEEN cents.” My mother nodded at the cash. The checker tried to tell her again and went to take the proper amount. I pushed the extra 35 cents back towards my mother, and the checker gratefully took the fiver and quarter and handed my mother the nine cents change (didn’t know there would be math in this did you?).
My mother looked at both of us, then at the register and saw it was sixteen not sixty and said “I don’t hear that well anymore. Or see, or walk,” trying to make a joke of it. The checker politely chuckled, handed my mother the receipt as I took the bag and we headed out.
In all fairness, sixteen and sixty do sound really similar. I’ve had the same thing happen in stores before, though it happens more often on the telephone than in person. Enunciating more clearly won’t resolve the issue.
But seeing hearing problems in action, outside of the house, drove the point home to me. Knowing she’s losing her hearing is one thing; experiencing it is another. And it won’t get better, for either one of us. Her hearing loss is due to age; my incipient loss is due to too much music, too loud, and for too long.
No doubt about it, being old just flat sucks. As my dear old father says “getting old is easy; being old is a bitch.”